by DMark Carter
RACE: 2005 New York City Spring Bicycle Racing Series - Race #1
DATE: Sunday, March 6, 2005, 6:30 AM
LOCATION: Prospect Park, Brooklyn, NY
EVENT ORGANIZER: Metropolitan Cycling Association, Anthony Van Dunk
CAT 5 RIDERS: D. Mark representing BVF
FIELD SIZE: 25-30 riders (some familiar faces, quite a few new faces, seems like a lot of riders came over from Manhattan that regularly ride in Central Park races)
WINNINGS: Trophies to top 5 finishes
DISTANCE: 6 laps (20.4 miles)
TEMPERATURE: 27-32 degrees at start of race / no wind / sunny day
ROAD CONDITIONS: Clean, dry roads. Snow pushed well clear of the side of road. No significant course obstructions.
RACE # Assignment: 703 (pre-registered # assigned for entire Spring Race Series)
IMPRESSIONS: When I arrived at the sign-in area for the race, it was dark and cold. It was so dark I had a hard time, once I as in Prospect Park, seeing whether there were other riders on the course. There was a sliver of a crescent moon in the sky and the park grounds were covered in snow. It was quite beautiful. The roadways were perfectly cleared of snow and no ice. There were lots of orange traffic cones laid out by the event organizer...lots. As I approached the sign-in there were lights, music and riders. I got to the race sign-in area around 5:45AM and noticed that there were only about 20-30 riders present. I was concerned that too few riders would show up, but gradually more and more arrived. It was cold...so cold, that everyone was having problems signing the racing release forms because the ink in the pens was frozen. Next time, I'm bringing a pencil.
I picked up my number and rode off to the ice skating rink to pin on my number inside in the warmth and take a last minute bathroom break. Unfortunately, the rink was locked. I got my number pinned and then took a ride to try to stay warm. My finger tips were starting to sting and even with booties, my toes were starting to sting. There were still 30 minutes before race time. I tried to stay warm by riding, but it only made me colder. Finally they called the riders to the line and we were off at 6:30. The sun was now up and shining.
In the CAT 5 race, with a field of 25-30 riders, there was an attempted break from the very start. I started from the back of the field so I wasn't sure if the rider up ahead was a CAT 5 rider, a causal rider on the course, or a late straggler or late starter to the CAT 3/4 race that started before our group. The pack did not seem concerned, so I didn't get concerned. As we approached the hill, I had worked myself from the rear of the pack at the start to about the 5th position on the outside lane. I like to be in the outside lane so that if there is an attempt to break away from the pack on the climb, I can counter without having to maneuver through riders in the pack. On the outside lane I can swing out from the pack and chase any attempted break whether it comes off the front or passes by me on the outside lane. Sure enough, this huge guy (around 6'4") motors around me on the outside swinging wide to break from the field on the slightly shallow section of the hill. He went by me fast on my left. Fortunately, I heard him coming so as he passed me on my left, I jumped out of my seat, and standing, shifted to a bigger gear and bridged the gap that he had formed and stayed glued to his his tail to the top. When he reached the top of the hill, he turned to look over his shoulder. I’m sure he expected to see he was all alone after the furious attach and energy expended. Instead, he turns to see me glued to his wheel. It was funny, because the rider didn’t a double take. I could see he was totally shocked to see me right there with him. This must have totally demoralized the guy, because his power output dropped. I felt great. My first race of the season and I’m able to respond to an attack...and do so in total control and comfort. I got up the hill so damn fast, I surprised myself and actually felt like I could totally control the race if I wanted to.
By this point, the two of us had reached the early solo rider that had broken away from the pack at the very start of the race. Everything slows. The pack catches up and we pretty much ride bunched for the remainder of the first lap. There were several attempted breaks. I don't know why, but it seems that most of the attempted breaks are on the backside downhill section of the course. I can't understand why these idiots think that they can achieve a solo break away from the pack on a downhill. I can see trying to make a break on the last lap of the race. By the last lap, you're fighting to gain position from other riders in the front for the final sprint. But early in the race, at least with CAT 5's, every time we hit the downhill section of the course, the same riders take off like the finish of the race is going to be that lap.
On the third lap of the course, there was one significant break by two riders. They were able to stay away for about half a lap and made about 200 yards distance on the pack. I waited to see if the pack was going to pull them in or let them go. If the pack was content to let the two riders have 1st and 2nd places I wasn’t going to sit around and fight for the final trophy positions of 3, 4 and 5. I felt strong, and felt that I could bridge solo up to the two riders and be in the hunt for 1st, 2nd and 3rd. But I didn't want to waste my energy if the pack was going to pull them in...which we finally did. So I saved my energy.
On the bell lap, as we passed the finish line we were moving so slow, I was embarrassed to think that I was even racing. No one wanted to take the lead and no one wanted to exert energy on the final lap. Everyone felt they were still in the hunt for the trophy positions. On the last hill climb, I was not able to followed my usual strategy of being on the outside (by the joggers lane). I got boxed in the middle of the pack with riders on all sides. Suddenly, a rider from the back right side of the course comes charging through on the inside right lane and moves lightening fast to the front. Frankly, I was surprised that there wasn’t a crash at this point. We were a tightly packed group and somehow this rider found a lane big enough for him and his bike to charge to the front of the pack. There was very little room between the curb on his right and the riders on his left. He was literally riding in the gutter to move to the front. Very brave...maybe very stupid, but he wound up at the front. The group was slow to respond to the rider attach. I couldn't respond because I was boxed in with riders on all sides. The field starts to break down and string out trying to respond to the swift ascent of this rider. A few small gaps form, but I am able to stay in the mix. Fortunately, this riders burst of energy was the usual 'up the hill' charge that so commonly peters out at the top. If the rider had more stamina he could have fractured the field and made a play for a solo break and possibly a win, but he didn’t have the stamina. The CAT 5 field was not organized and a good break probably could have stayed away because of the disorganization.
Now the pack has crested the hill and is looking to get a quick rest on the short decline and flat section by the concert stage area. One rider made several repeated attempts to power of the front, but got pulled back each time. On the last downhill, people were jockeying for position. Stupid me...I know I need to be at the front of the pack on the last downhill section. You've got to be at the front coming off the downhill and powering out of the flat sweeping turn for the home stretch. If you're not at the front, it is nearly impossible to work your way through the pack to the front. Stupid me...I get boxed out of my line and wind up about 3/4th of the way back in the field. I'm pissed, because I should not have allowed this to happen. We're flying down the hill. At the bottom I sneak a peak at my odometer and we're sailing along as a pack at 32 miles per hour. You can't move up in a pack at these speeds. So I start to pick my line as we sweep through the curve and get ready to launch out of the curve and shoot past the 'temple'. All of a sudden I hear yelling, screams, grinding, and scrapping and sense confusion. The riders in front of me part...some peeling to the left and some splitting to the right and reveal to my sudden horror two riders and their bikes tumbling on the roadway directly in front of me. Two riders had gone done at high speed (25-28 mph) just a few feet front the drainage roadway repair cut. It took a second to realize what had happened and that I was about to ride right into the riders and go down myself. I hit my rear break. This caused me to skid. I turned my front wheel to avoid the bike that was laying on the ground two feet in front of me. My bike skidded and jumped sideways. I released the break and the bike jolted forward just missing the wheel of the bike laying in the roadway on my right by what seemed like 2 inches. As I passed this crashed rider on my left, I saw peripherally out of my right eye a rider flying through the air and slamming to the ground in a yellow jersey. I suspect that this rider, who was somewhere behind me and other riders, had swerved to the right. In the process, the riders probably ran out of road and had hit the curb and the accumulated snow on the right side of the turn and had been thrown from his bike into the frozen, snow covered ground on the side of the road. All I can remember is what looked like superman flying by me in a stretch out horizontal position, on my right, in a yellow jersey and the thud and groan of the rider as he hit the frozen ground.
Some how...miraculously, I avoided the crash in front of me and I was lucky not to have been hit from behind by anyone. While I was collecting my thoughts and thinking how close I had come to being caught up in the crash, I realized the riders in front, who had cleared the crash, were taking off at high speed. I had nearly come to a dead stop to avoid a fallen riders and their bikes while the rest of the field in front had maintained speed and were actually ramping up the speed on the final leg to the finish. No more that a second pasted before I realized that I was not in contact with the pack and had no speed or momentum as the pack pulled away. I jumped out of the saddle and powered through the gears, spinning like mad to break down the distance and neutralize the speed advantage of the lead group. Fortunately, I was able to finally make contact with the back of the pack just as they were sweeping past the parking lot into the gentle 'S' curves for the final sprint to the finish line. However, I had expended a lot of energy to catch the pack and I was at the back of the pack. This is not a good place to be for the final sprint with 10-15 riders in front of you. Nor did I had a chance to recharge from chasing down the pack after the crash. As the finish line came into sight one of the riders broke for the line. I had marked a point 200 meters out from where I wanted to launch my sprint. However, this rider and the rest of the field launched their sprint at around 350 meters out. I didn't jump with the rest, but revved up and geared up for my sprint...waiting for the last 200 meters. At the 200 meter mark, I jumped but realized I didn't have the energy in my legs. I passed a few riders but not enough to get in the trophy positions. I crossed the line around 11th to 12th place. At least I crossed the line in one piece and my bike intact. I still can’t believe that I was able to avoid the crash just couple minutes earlier. Not bad for my first race of the season.
ENDING THOUGHTS: I wasn't happy with my finish, but I wasn't totally disappointed. In one year, I've come a long way. One year ago, I was dropped after the 2nd or 3rd lap of the race. One year ago, it wasn't till the end of the season that I was able to finish with the pack and even mix it up in the sprint. I feel like the start of this season, with this first race, is just a logical extension of where I ended last season. Also, I've become more knowledge of where I want to be in a race at specific points on the course. I know where I want to be relative to other riders in the field. I can generally determine who the strong riders are and what their strengths are relative to mine. Overall, I have greater power and endurance than last year. I think I've been able to maintain my endurance and improve my conditioning over the winter month with Kirk's spin classes and Jonathan's CompuTrainer classes. I may have even over done things before this week's race, because I had a hard 23 mile CompuTrainer workout on Saturday, the day before the race with Scott, Eric, Josh and Steve. I wonder if I would have finished better if I had not been caught behind the bike crash. I certainly would have had a lot more energy for the finishing kick if I had not had to chase the pack down. I think my sprint is better than last year. I have been practicing my sprints over the winter because, this year I plan to be there at the end of the race, in the mix for the finish.
OBSERVATIONS: On my warm down lap around the park I spotted Kirk (Olympic Champion and the trainer of the BVF superstars) leaning on his bike by the side of the course. I pulled over and we spoke for a while. I’m going to be sorry to see Kirk leave us. What a great person, rider and trainer.
Brian, the CAT 5 rider from last year 2004 season was present and riding in the CAT 5 race this year. He said he's into track and rides a lot in Trexelertown, PA.
COMMENTS: I didn’t get to use my brand new set of wheels – American Classic 350’s (clincher rims weighing 1325 grams...oh baby!). When I put these babies on my bike, I’ll be trimming 2lbs of weight and drop my rolling resistance significantly. I wonder, will I even feel the hills any more with these wheels.
Hope you enjoyed the reading as much I enjoyed the riding.
by DMark Carter